It’s not unusual for communities to share safety equipment or offer mutual police and fire aid in the case of emergencies.

But in what may be the first of its kind in the area, three cities have joined together to purchase a piece of road equipment.

The $130,000 cost of an asphalt recycler, shared by Kent, Stow and Ravenna, is an experiment of sorts — a demonstration by a group of mayors and service directors in Summit and Portage counties who meet quarterly to discuss ways to collaborate.

“It’s the first time I’m aware of something like this in the service arena,” Kent Service Director Gene Roberts said.

The machine reprocesses old asphalt grindings that are collected from road maintenance work. The grindings are combined with additives to create a “hot mix” that is used to fill potholes in winter.

Hot mix is needed in the winter because the material remains malleable. Cold patch material is too easily knocked off by snowplows, Roberts said.

Kent traditionally has traveled to North Canton or Alliance, often tying up an employee for four hours or more, to collect similar mix at a cost of about $100 a ton, Roberts said.

Having their own recycler will cut that cost to a tenth or better, Roberts said.

The machine will remain in Kent, located between Stow and Ravenna. The cities intend to rent it to other members of their coalition but have yet to determine a fee schedule. The city has been training on using the equipment and it should be ready for use soon, he said.

The coalition has been meeting for more than a year and is made of about a dozen communities.

“It’s just a really good opportunity for us to share ideas and find ways to collaborate” on things from service to planning, Stow Mayor Sara Drew said.

Drew said it was “less likely” that Stow would purchase such a piece of equipment on its own.

“It’s not something you use every day and we’re in an era if something isn’t critical every day” a city has to think twice before spending the money, she said. “The nature of it makes it an easy thing to collaborate on.”

Roberts agreed: “We’re demonstrating that communities can partner and make their streets safe in the winter for our constituents and do it less expensively.”

He said that several years ago there was an effort to get area service departments to partner on expensive but infrequently used equipment, but it fell apart.

“We were trying to do grand things,” he said. When this latest group started meeting in January 2012, “I told them don’t go big, do little bites and demonstrate it will work.”

The coalition communities are also working on mutual aid agreements for emergency service help. That’s common in the safety arena, but not so much among service departments, Roberts said.

“Before, someone could call and we would help, but we’re going to the next level and pre-planning it,” he said.

Future shared purchases could involve a fleet of back-up equipment.

“For instance, Kent has two sewer cleaning machines, one of them being our back-up because we don’t want to be caught without one. But what if 10 communities shared the price of that and parked it in case anyone needed it?” Roberts said. “That’s a better use of taxpayer money.”

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.